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Q&A: What’s New With Sapient: From Facial Scruff, To Spaceships, To ‘Slump’ LP

By Cynthia Orgel; Photo by Kelsey Adenji on November 7, 2012


Q&A: What’s New With Sapient: From Facial Scruff, To Spaceships, To ‘Slump’ LP

Sapient is the prominent Portland-based emcee/producer affiliated with the nine-person collective, Sandpeople, in addition to the dynamic duo, Debaser. However, it is his individual moniker—the one boasting of sagacity—that most accurately describes this insightful artist.

Currently a decade into his career, Sapient has produced more than ten full-length solo albums. His productivity has reached another peak, in the form of his upcoming LP, Slump, which will officially drop on February 19, 2013 through Camobear Records.

Rather than release a new LP chock-full of fresh hip-hop anthems carried by rap vocals, Sapient is reinventing his sound by delving deep into indie. We are already aware of how illustrious Sapient's role as a rapper is, but now Sape is ready to showcase his talents as a singer. Clearly, he is in anything but a slump. In fact, his career is skyrocketing all the way to the moon, if not further, as comically portrayed in the music video for Slump's first single, "Shotgun In My Spaceship."

So a better question is, "what isn't Sapient up to?" FILTER attempts to follow along with the busy musician, as he talks about his next music video, the Slump tour, being a father, shaving (or not)—all sorts of aspects regarding his enviable career. 

After reading all about Sapient, grab a free download of "Out From Under," off Sapient's forthcoming album, Slump.

You are awfully scruffy these days. Are you participating in No Shave November?

I was actually growing out the beard for a music video role. It kinda got insane, so since I already filmed the parts I needed the beard for, I hacked it down a few days ago. I guess I'm already looking scruffy by now, though. I'm not participating in "Movember" particularly, but it's likely that I still won't shave.

“I’ll show you the structures on the moon, if you’ll ride shotgun in my spaceship.” How often does that pick-up line work for you? What’s harder to understand: women or astronomy?

Well, my wife and I have two kids, so it's worked at least two times.

I don't really know much about astronomy; I do know slightly more than nothing about women. I don't think I'm qualified to answer this question. Segue to joke about the Big Bang.

There’s a great repeating line in “Grown Up”— “My ear is ringing/ My mind’s dull/My greatest gift is my instinct for survival”—it calls to attention the meaning of your moniker. Can you elaborate on this “instinct for survival?” What keeps you fighting and wanting to rap?

When working on that song, I was in the throes of some insane deadlines and working way more than a 9 to 5, which is not unusual for me. I was particularly exhausted creatively. My creativity is not only what I depend on for money, but it solely supports my family. This pressure, and long periods of it, creates a struggle where inspiration is buried, sometimes really deep. It feels like panning for gold. After being in the studio making tracks and mixing for so many hours, your ears start to ring and your eyes burn. When you step away from your work you feel dull, like it's 3 a.m. when it's really 6 p.m. I guess my ability to make that song right then was my instinct for survival.

Also in reference to “Grown Up,” off your last LP, Barrels for Feathers [2010], the lyrics “Sometimes I feel like I chose the wrong profession. A 9-5 would have been easier” really stood out to me. How do you currently feel about your career and your upcoming release, Slump?

My career has been a huge blessing! I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to hustle music. Sometimes it's a difficult thing, just like any business owner with no employees, because I work harder than I would a "normal" job. If you break it down to dollars per hour, I probably make like $3 an hour, haha. But all depressing fake laughs aside, sometimes it fucks with me for sure. Being 10 years into my career and still not sure where the money is coming from next is not ideal; really the hardest part is trying to balance my time with my family. It's so important to be there as a father.

You’ve referred to Slump as an indie rock album, “for lack of a better term.” Can you explain your transition from your previous albums, which were heavily rooted in hip-hop and rap, to your newest work that supposedly combines rap and indie?

Slump has been a long time coming. I have been working on this since 2007 and have had a "finished" version since 2008. Many revisions and versions of the master have circulated through my car CD player, and I'm left with an album I'm extremely proud of and a bucket of awesome b-sides. Since around 2005, I ended all of my hip-hop albums with a song that featured me singing instead of rapping, also playing guitar and usually all of the instruments on the track. They were mostly received as favorite songs, and with encouragement of my homie, Onry Ozzborn, I started my beginnings in a genre I had only previously dabbled in.

Will members of the collective you’re a part of, Sandpeople, be making an appearance on Slump? What can your fans look forward to with this new release?

Slump is not a hip-hop album. There is no rapping on it. I sing throughout and the only features are my cousin Sam Newbold, and long-time friend AED playing a few drum riffs, my Mom on violin, and Ben Lumsden sprinkling a little trumpet here and there. I hop on the piano/keyboard, guitar, drums, and bass throughout the album. There are no samples, though the sound of Slump doesn't really stray from the sound of my production. I mixed the album to thump in your subs, just like you'd expect from something with my name on it. I can't make a record without a massive head-nod factor.

At the moment, you’re working on the “Roman Candle” music video. Is this song/video as playful as “Shotgun In My Spaceship?”

Well, yes, it's funny you should ask. It's with the same talented director, Ife Adeniji. This one is going to be pretty trill as well. Let's just say it is based in the trap.

You’re also a successful producer. Will you be handling the production aspects of this album?

Absolutely. Handling the production is part of what makes the album mine. I also engineered all of the recording: mixed and mastered it and created all of the album artwork. It's like my baby, second to my real babies... and my dog.

Have you lived in Portland your entire life? If so, what has kept you there all of these years?

I was born in Eugene, OR. Compared to Eugene, Portland was the closest "big" city. When we formed Sandpeople in 2004, I still lived in Eugene but practically all of the other members lived in Portland. I moved up soon after and fell in love with the city. The music and art here is incredible.

When does the Slump tour begin?!

We are booking a national tour for February 2013, to launch with the release of the album. Jeah! 


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